Being There: Closing the Gap between Learners and Contextual Knowledge Using Near-World Scenarios
The use of near-world scenarios by university teachers to deliver relevant and authentic adult learning opportunities is becoming increasingly popular as the pressure to bridge perceived gaps between subject theory and professional practice comes to the fore.
This paper proffers the idea that near-world scenarios, explored via role-play, mental projection, discussion and/or debate, can provide an excellent experiential vehicle for tertiary students to align subject/disciplinary knowledge with professional practice. Such scenarios can also provide a base for critical thinking, decision-making, and the testing out of ideas.
The author points out a range of factors that likely determine the success, or otherwise of near-world scenarios in intended educational outcomes: In particular, he focuses on the social construction of scenarios, the ways that tutor-facilitator language adjusts by design or default the depth of engagement; the need for a 'willing suspension of disbelief' by learners and tutors; learner perceptions of relevance; and, the (professional) authenticity of assessment and learning.
The author uses several in-depth near-world scenario examples to demonstrate how these factors may work singularly or in combination to engage or alienate student involvement.
Keywords: Near-World Scenarios, Experiential Learning, Contextual Knowledge, Student Engagement, Critical Thinking
Dr. Edward Peter Errington
Academic Development Adviser, Teaching & Learning Development, James Cook University